Genocide Awareness Act Clears CA State Assembly Education Committee

SACRAMENTO, CA — The California State Assembly Education Committee unanimously passed SB 234, the Genocide Awareness Act this afternoon, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).  The legislation, authored by CA Senator Mark Wyland (R-northern San Diego County), calls on the CA State Curriculum Commission to consider the inclusion of an oral history component to its already mandatory genocide education curriculum.

Testifying on behalf of the Armenian National Committee, San Francisco resident and former Human Rights Commissioner Haig Baghdassarian urged members of the committee “to help foster generations of citizens who have been sensitized to the horrors of such crimes against humanity by providing them with an opportunity to hear first-hand accounts from genocide survivors.”

Also testifying in support of the bill was Dr. Stephan Astourian of the University of California, Berkeley’s History Department.  Dr. Astourian also serves on the Board of Directors for the Genocide Education Project.

Opening his testimony, Astourian noted that, “I will start with a statement attributed to Stalin that justifies ironically enough the importance and usefulness of this bill: the death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions a statistic.  The introduction of oral history in the curriculum will put the human face and voice on that statistic.  It will personalize and humanize the inhumane abstraction that is genocide.”

Both the curriculum and SB 234 make explicit reference to the Armenian Genocide in addition to several other genocides of the 20th Century.  The Turkish lobby has actively sought to undermine the legislation as it progressed through the California State Senate, which unanimously passed the bill on June 3rd this year.

Bruce Fein, the infamous Washington, DC-based professional Armenian Genocide denier and lobbyist who had testified against SB 234 during the CA Senate Education Committee, once again traveled to Sacramento in an attempt to derail the anti-genocide bill.  His efforts were rebuffed by Senator Wyland and the anti-genocide advocates participating in the hearing.

When discussing the legislation after it passed through the CA Senate Education Committee, Senator Wyland noted that, “only by acknowledging horrific events of the past can we effectively transform the future.  The more we educate our kids, the closer we are to determining why it is genocide happens over and over again.”

“With over six million public school students, California has the unique opportunity to influence a huge number of the next generation of citizens by helping our children understand the terror of genocide so it doesn’t happen again,” he added.

Having cleared the CA State Assembly Education Committee, SB 234 now moves to the CA State Assembly Appropriations Committee for consideration.

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